I looked up MW but failed to see whether they are interchangeable.

On a daily basis I find difficulties in adjective forming, so I guess this is just one more of the -IC versus -AL dilemmas, no?

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    For most purposes you should recognise "numeric" as an adjective (i.e. - "The digit 3 is a numeric character"). Whereas "numeral" is a noun in itself (i.e. - "The digit 3 is a numeral"). – FumbleFingers Jan 28 '15 at 16:35
  • Thanks, so it is boiled down to usage habits, because MW defines them both both as adjectives and nouns. To add to the confusion MW defines numerICAL as well but this time as adjective only. – Georgi Jan 28 '15 at 16:41
  • Some estimated usage figures from Google Books: a numeral expression:1300, a numeric expression:23000, a numerical expression:126000. – FumbleFingers Jan 28 '15 at 17:01
  • Very good, didn't look until now, it appears you are quite right numberwise/ratiowise, with 1:10:100 ratio it is no wonder why noun takes over. Also, "numerals" yielded 2,490,000 while "numerics" 76,100. – Georgi Jan 28 '15 at 17:12
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    Yes - checking prevalence (using Google Books or Internet search) for word+s can be a good way of checking how often word is used as a noun. But you need to watch out for cases where word might also be used as a verb, so it's generally better to search for some unambiguous text string in Google Books. (Besides which, they're written instances, so there won't be too many erroneous texts written by incompetent/non-native speakers.) – FumbleFingers Jan 28 '15 at 17:46

Numeral (noun) is the shape that draw on the paper to represent a number.

Numeric (adj) lets us know that some noun represents some number.

In use:

0 and O look almost identical in many fonts. But they are not the same. The letter form O has an orthographic (spelling) value, but no numeric value, although it can be used to spell many great words like book and hog.

Contrast that with the numeral 0. You can't spell anything with it, but it does have a numeric value, approximately halfway between -1 and 1.

In some fonts, you can tell the two apart: 0 is the numeral, O is the letter form with no numeric value.

In Rome, on the other hand, the letter form V also served as a numeral, so you could either use it to spell things, or to represent numeric values.

...and one more take on this, from the comments:

  • Forty-seven is a number, expressed without the use of numerals. 47 is the same number, expressed using numerals.

  • Boobs is a word referring to mammalian anatomy. 80085 is the punchline to a adolescent calculator joke that uses numerals to suggest the word "boobs." The numeric value of 80085 is not important to the joke.

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    Thanks, very good. Can we replace 'numeric values' with just 'numericS', I wonder why the noun usage is kinda avoided, here one example: Restricting our attention to such programming languages in general, it is observed that the lack of computational efficiency has proved to be the most important argument against object-oriented numerics. This aspect has indeed prevented serious use of OOP for numerical work until advent of C++. /Numerical Methods and Software Tools in Industrial Mathematics/ – Georgi Jan 28 '15 at 17:36
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    I think I have seen numeric used as a noun meaning "something which has the same value as some number" in programming. (e.g. I declare my string variables in upper case. Then when I see ONE, I instantly know it is not a numeric.) I am not a programmer, though, so I can't speak broadly about how the words are used in that field. As a physical scientist/engineer in the U.S., I see numeric used as an adjective, interchangeably with numerical. We use numeral only to refer to the character. – Adam Jan 28 '15 at 17:47
  • Maybe the noun use of numeric is less common because in most contexts, people don't need a word for "something which represents a number, but isn't necessarily one." ? – Adam Jan 28 '15 at 17:51
  • Good to know. In earlier versions of the standard (e.g., SQL-89), the data types were limited to exact numerics, approximate numerics, and character strings. In SQL-92, these have been augmented with bit strings, datetimes, and intervals. Each of these have ... /Understanding the New SQL: A Complete Guide/ – Georgi Jan 28 '15 at 17:51
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    Ay-ay, why I was under the impression that numeral is a letter-written ... numeral! In my dummy convention forty-seven was a numeral while the 47 was the number. I have much to ... unlearn. – Georgi Jan 28 '15 at 18:12

Numeric is often used in something like this: "0 has no numeric value", but you would use Numeral in a sentence like this "II is two in roman numerals".

Numeric - Indicating a number or value.

Numeral - A word number or symbol expressing a number

  • Thanks, my current understanding is that (as you said) numeral is the wordY representation, but I still can't see what is the role of 'numeric' then, can we say "Zero is (a) numeral/numeric"? – Georgi Jan 28 '15 at 16:33
  • You would say something like " X has an numerical value of 1" Its another way of saying number. – Trevor Clarke Jan 28 '15 at 17:11

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